Karen Black

Karen Black (born July 1, 1939) is an American actress, screenwriter, singer and songwriter. She is noted for her portrayals of troubled women on the edge, and her career has spanned five decades.


Early life

Black was born Karen Blanche Ziegler in Park Ridge, Illinois, the daughter of Elsie (née Reif), a writer of several prize-winning children's novels, and Norman A. Ziegler. Her paternal grandfather was Arthur Ziegler, a classical musician and the first violinist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her sister is actress Gail Brown. She attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, for two years, having commenced university studies in 1954, at the age of fifteen. She then moved to New York, where she appeared in a number of Off-Broadway productions. Her first major theatrical and film successes occurred nearly a decade later.


Black made her Broadway debut in 1965's The Playroom, which received good reviews and for which she was nominated for a Drama Circle Critic Award for Best Actress. Her film debut was in The Prime Time (1960) and her first big role came in You're a Big Boy Now (1966), which was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. She subsequently appeared on the TV series The Second Hundred Years (1967) as Marcia Garroway.

Black became a well-known actress after her role as Karen in Easy Rider (1969). She has over 100 film performances to her credit, including her role as a kidnapping accomplice in the final film Alfred Hitchcock directed, Family Plot (1976), and her turn as Rayette Dipesto in Five Easy Pieces (1970), for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for Five Easy Pieces as well as a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress - Motion Picture for her role as Myrtle Wilson in The Great Gatsby (1974).

She was also nominated for Best Motion Picture Actress - Drama for her role as Faye Greener in The Day of the Locust (1975). She starred in Airport 1975 as Chief Cabin Attendant Nancy Pryor with a memorable line: "There's no one left to fly the plane!"

Black was nominated for a Grammy Award for Album of Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Series for the film Nashville (1975). She had previously written and sang the theme song and supporting songs for The Pyx (1973). She starred in the Dan Curtis horror film about a haunted house, Burnt Offerings (1976), which featured Bette Davis in one of her final roles. She then appeared in a dual role in a 1977 thriller The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver.

Black has made a number of appearances on popular TV shows, including The Big Valley, Mannix, Adam-12, Saturday Night Live, Murder, She Wrote, Family Guy, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

She starred as Mother Firefly in the 2003 Rob Zombie horror movie House of 1000 Corpses.

In March 2005, Black received the Best Actress Award at the Fantasporto International Film Festival in Porto, Portugal, for her work in the critically-acclaimed Steve Balderson film Firecracker (2005), in which she plays two roles, Sandra and Eleanor. She and actor John Hurt were both presented with Career Achievement Awards as well.

Black launched a career as a playwright in May 2007 with the opening of Missouri Waltz at the Blank Theater in Los Angeles; Black stars in the play as well. Conceived as a play with music, rather than a musical, the play contains songs by Harriet Schock. The play is a bittersweet comedy about two ghosts who haunt their ancestral home in New Madrid, Missouri.

Personal life

Black has had four husbands, Charles Black (married 1960 - ?) Robert Burton (married 1973 - 1974 ) screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson (divorced) and film editor Stephen Eckelberry (married 1987 - present). She and Carson have one son, Hunter Carson (born December 25, 1975), who had an acting career in the mid 1980s; and she and Eckelberry adopted a daughter, Celine Eckelberry (born in November 1987).

Black in popular culture

Cracker's song Dr. Bernice contains the lyric, 'Though the wind may whisper an epic sometime/The cast must include Karen Black.'

In the Family Guy episode "Death is a Bitch" Karen Black is forced to land a plane, prompting news anchor Tom Tucker to report, "Karen Black, what an obscure reference".

The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black is a glam/punk band led by Kembra Pfahler. Guitarist Abby Normal, featured a song titled "Scream Karen Black" on his solo project album Midnight Creature Feature Picture Show.

Her likeness appears in the The Simpsons Tree House of Horror Dead Man's Jest comic book.



External links

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